Go big or go home. After a bounce back season that unfortunately led to a quick playoff exit and a quick change of direction. This is a take over where I wish I could hit the time machine because I would have managed things a bit differently.
The key for this team’s success was repeated top draft picks to pair Saquon Barkley and Dalvin Cook with Austin Hooper and Darren Waller. This led to an extremely hot start with an undefeated streak that faded into no playoff wins. Because of that a mini blow up has since occurred.
Barkley and a 2022 3rd round pick were shipped out for a 2021 1st, a 2022 1st, Calvin Ridley and Preston Williams. The argument could be made with that big four it covered for some of the warts of a team that was still drafting early, look no further than the quick exit from the playoffs. It wasn’t helped by missing a 2nd and 3rd round pick in a trade for A. J. Green that never panned in to anything. That made Joe Burrow the only notable rookie added.
Cook and David Montgomery are the starting RBs with Jalen Richard, LeSean McCoy, Jamal Williams and Benny Snell on the bench. Trading away Barkley and not getting a RB back will leave the position thin and is probably pushing down the path of a sell because none of the back ups are even worth a flex spot.
WR was a big reason the team struggled and trading Barkley helped that. Green is paired with Williams and Ridley in the starting lineup along with Jae Crowder. Kenny Stills, Chris Conley and Randall Cobb are on the bench. There’s a bit more upisde with the bench pieces but you can see the lack of depth for a team that was still a work in progress.
Having Hooper and Waller helped cover the lack of depth for the WR so this team could get in to the playoffs, but obviously took a hit with Hooper moving from Atlanta to Cleveland. He obviously found a diamond in a rough with Waller who quickly moved up in to the upper echelon of TEs. Vance McDonald and Gerald Everett are the back ups on the team and back ups on their own team, meh.
Matt Ryan is penciled in for the fantasy football QB starter with some young back ups in Sam Darnold and Joe Burrow. There may not be a whole lot of depth across the board but there’s plenty here. While the value at the QB position has taken a hit the last few years there is something to a young QB.
With the lack of depth, and getting burnt on the Green trade and missing a 2nd in 2021 also, it is certainty justifiable to not buy the playoff appearance last season. However, for my take over I don’t know about the drastic measure of trading away your best player, especially a young stud RB. If that was the way to go then I would have looked at Cook with his injury history and contract uncertainty.
The question is where do you go from here? With three starting WR and two flex options the TEs and the added WRs fill out the starting line up but there’s a lot of uncertainty after Cook, who has his own questions. I personally would have just ridden it out because the team had done well putting together a solid RB position. Instead it was a drastic pivot that I’m not sure should be the end of trading.
He could be tainted goods but A. J. Green is the obvious trade candidate. It’s hard to justify hanging on to any vets when you start by trading Barkley. The big factor is determining where the line is for the core players. Waller? Hooper? Cook? Or do you just tear it all down and try and build depth through the next two drafts? Because if you’re rebuilding then you want to miss the playoffs and stockpile picks.
This is a tough take over because the team went quite a different direction then I think they should have. I think the team is tough enough to challenge for a playoff spot even with the lack of depth at RB but if you didn’t believe in the team last season then you can’t this season. With four 1st round picks in the next two drafts now starts the challenge to replace Barkley.
While it is probably reasonable to see last season as a fluke, the trading of Barkley was a mistake in my opinion. The team has been built up through the draft, hence the weak depth on the bench, but there weren’t really any vets in key positions. I think you still stand pat and use the draft picks to build up the team up but it took a #1 pick to get Barkley and you’re unlikely to end up there again.